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Bulgari’s Noteworthy New China Marketing Campaign on a Happy ‘Jew’ Year of the Pig (Zhu)

Bulgari’s wordplay is multidimensional, but did it consider Jewish people?

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A new marketing campaign by Italian luxury brand introduces “JEW” as a supposed ‘buzzword’ for the Year of the Pig (Zhu in Mandarin).

On January 4th, the Italian jewelry company Bulgari launched a remarkable campaign on WeChat and Weibo to promote its luxury goods for the New Year, which for China, will be the Year of the Pig.

The campaign was first spotted by Nathan Baker (@NateyBakes) who wondered on Twitter:

So Bulgari’s WeChat account just put out an article that spells the Chinese word for pig in a special way. Wonder if they consulted with any Jewish people first.”

The campaign on Weibo is introduced as follows (loose translation):

At the beginning of the new year, let your charm stand out. The Bulgari special Lunar New Year collection is launched. In the new year, you’re the ‘pearl’ (‘JEW’) in the palm [‘beloved one’]” [“新年伊始,你的魅力已展露锋芒. 宝格丽农历新年特别款作品全新上市. 新的一年,要你做掌上明JEW.”]

The campaign uses a few posters that show their new jewelry collection together with pigs.

The word ‘JEW’ is multidimensional in its Chinese use here by Bulgari.

(1) Firstly, it is a wordplay on the Mandarin pronunciation for ‘pig’ (猪) zhū, which, when pronounced, sounds similar to the English ‘Jew’ (listen here).

(2) Second, the use of ‘Jew’ in English could also be seen as an abbreviation for ‘jewelry.’

(3) Third, the campaign uses various Chinese idioms starting or ending with a character that is pronounced as ‘zhu‘ in Mandarin, where ‘Jew’ is used as a substitute. It is a play on words, as it could mean either ‘pig,’ ‘jewelry,’ as well as still conveying the meaning of the original idiom.

The Chinese idiom “pearl in the palm” or “beloved daughter” (掌上明珠, zhǎngshàngmíngzhū), for example, is written as “掌上明JEW”: it sounds the same, but the last character is replaced with the English ‘Jew,’* which then also changes the meaning of the idiom to something along the lines of “having a jewel in the hand” – which is used to promote a Bulgari watch.

The Chinese idiom 胸有成竹 (xiōngyǒuchéngzhú), meaning to have a well-thought-out plan, is used in combination with ‘Jew’ here, which also gives it a double meaning since it could then literally be translated as “your chest turns into jew[elery],” which is used to promote the necklace in the first picture.

Another idiom used in the campaign is 诸事顺利 (zhūshìshùnlì), which means that everything is going smoothly, and in which the first ‘zhu‘, again, is replaced by ‘JEW,’ which brings about a wordplay that the Bulgari jewelry is supposedly smooth, as well as the [year of the] pig.

All in all, one could argue that Bulgari’s marketing team has created a new marketing campaign that mixes up Chinese characters, English, and idioms in such a way that thinks of Chinese tradition and promotes their own luxury products.

However, as Nathan Baker notes, there is a sensitive problem in this campaign regarding the use of the word ‘Jew,’ especially when framed together with the images of a pig, which will surely raise more than a few eyebrows and, marketing-wise, is probably not a smart move for the Italian luxury brand.

Update: Wow, that was fast. The campaign already seems to have been deleted from Wechat as well as from Weibo.

By Manya Koetse

*Thanks to Annelous Stiggelbout for clarification

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Digital

From Teacher to Livestreamer: Ecommerce Move is Game Changer for China’s New Oriental Education

New Oriental is going from classroom to e-commerce. Online shopping has never been more educational.

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After laying off 60,000 staff last year, Chinese private education company New Oriental is now offering unexpected new employment opportunities for teachers in the livestream market. Changing e-commerce channels into virtual classrooms, New Oriental has hit the sweet spot with Chinese netizens.

Last year, an unprecedented crackdown on China’s private education sector left many teachers unemployed and worried about their future.

China’s so-called ‘double reduction’ (双减) policy was announced in August of 2021 and targeted “excessive homework” and off-campus tutoring for students in the mandatory nine-year education system. The new regulations imposed strict sanctions on existing private education institutions, forcing them to register as non-profit organizations. Foreign investment in the private tutoring sector was also banned.

One of the companies that was hit particularly hard by this policy is New Oriental (新东方), the largest provider of private educational services in China. Following the crackdown, the company suffered huge losses and dismissed 60,000 employees.

Facing the new regulations, including the ban on for-profit tutoring in subjects on the school curriculum, New Oriental tried to keep its head above water by exploring new markets and ideas within the private education sector. For example, the company launched a special program to train parents on how to tutor their K-12 children themselves. New Oriental called it their “excellent parenting” (优质父母) training class.

Now, nearly a year later, another initiative by New Oriental has become an online hit. Inspired by the success of livestream e-commerce in China, the tutoring company started its own livestream channels. Although New Oriental already introduced its e-commerce business in late 2021, with founder Yu Minhong (俞敏洪) sometimes hosting the sessions himself, it had not been as much of an online success until it recently introduced bilingual livestream e-commerce sessions.

Now, tutors-turned-sellers are teaching viewers English – or sometimes other subjects – while selling (agricultural) products via the Douyin app. Whether they are selling fruit, rice, or even shrimp, New Oriental’s livestream hosts are grabbing every opportunity to teach their viewers a new word or concept, often using a whiteboard to introduce new vocabulary.

Whatever they’re selling, New Oriental’s livestream hosts make sure it’s educational.

One reason for New Oriental becoming a viral hit is because of Dong Yuhui (董宇辉), who is one of the experienced teachers now selling products online. Dong’s bilingual livestreams are particularly successful among viewers because of his enthusiasm, fluency in English, witty jokes, personal stories, and talent for singing.

Teacher Dong recently had a breakthrough moment with his June 10th livestream, during which he sold bags of rice using English. He has since attracted over nine million viewers. While thanking all viewers for their support in a recent Weibo post, Dong described himself as a “ordinary peasant boy.”

Dong Yuhui (董宇辉) is one of the livestreamers that have turned New Oriental’s e-commerce into a viral hit.

Besides Dong, there are also other popular hosts. English teachers Ming Ming, Yoyo, and Dun Dun are all loved by viewers for their charm and wit.

Although various kinds of social e-commerce categories are particularly popular in China, this new phenomenon of combining education + e-commerce + livestream is appreciated by many netizens who like to learn something while being entertained and perhaps also buying something. “I don’t know whether to place an order or to make notes,” has become a popular comment. Another commenter said: “As a kid I took your class, and now I buy your goods.”

Others say that they like the calm way in which the livestreams are presented, posing a stark contrast to other livestreams where the hosts are hyping up products and urging people to buy fast and buy more.

On June 15th, news came out that New Oriental’s stocks had surged by more than 25% following its livestreaming success.

Although some Weibo users predict that this is just a temporary trend, others think that the educational livestream model is here to stay: “New Oriental really started a new business venture, and I’m learning a lot through their livestream sessions.”

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

Image via Weibo

Read related article: China’s Crackdown on Tutoring Schools: Concerned Parents and Teachers on Weibo

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China Books & Literature

Why Is Kindle Leaving China?

Many netizens are not happy over Kindle exiting the Chinese market: “We never know when the online services we use suddenly stop working.”

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Amazon announced on Thursday that it has stopped supplying retailers in China with its Kindle e-readers and that it will discontinue its Kindle e-bookstore in the Chinese market on June 30, 2023.

Amazon announced its Kindle exit in a statement on its official WeChat account, saying it was because of a shift in the strategic focus of its company’s operations.

For Chinese customers who have purchased e-books through Kindle, they will be able to continue downloading them until June 30 of 2024. Customers who would rather return the Kindle devices they bought in 2022 can get a refund.

On Weibo, the hashtags “Kindle Will Be Discontinued in China Next Year” (#Kindle中国明年停止电子书运营#) and “Why Wasn’t Kindle Able to Make It in China?” (#为什么Kindle在中国活不下去#) were hot topics on Thursday and Friday.

Some commenters said they were upset about Kindle being discontinued in China: “Why why why!! I really like Kindle and their e-bookstore, I check for interesting and new books on sale on a weekly basis. Which e-reader and e-bookstore are suitable substitutes?”

“Zhangyue, Hisense, Huawei, Onyx Boox, Tencent, Readmoo,.. there are actually a lot of brands,” one person responded, but some others said they still preferred Kindle.

“What do I do with my Kindle now? Just use it to cover my noodles?”

In 2021, Amazon’s Kindle was among the most popular e-book brands in China. Besides Amazon’s Kindle, China’s most popular e-reader brands include Onyx Boox, iFlytech, Zhangyue, Xiaomi, Hanvon, Tencent, Boyue, Obook, and Sony (see list).

Some commenters wrote that they understand that companies such as Amazon have to make some tough choices after facing pandemic-related setbacks in China, while there were also many netizens who blamed Kindle’s China exit on Chinese consumers illegally downloading pirated books instead of buying them at the Kindle store.

Others said that Kindle e-bookstore prices were often about the same as paper book prices, making the latter more appealing to people who like to read, especially if they also like to make notes in their books. In other words, they say the Kindle e-bookstore is simply too expensive for the Chinese market, where consumers can find many other options, both paper and digital ones.

“It’s not so complicated,” one Weibo user wrote: “It’s all because of market competition reasons. Kindle is facing the impact of Tencent’s influence on the e-reading market.”

Some people are really disappointed that the books they have bought through Kindle will become unavailable to them, and some wondered if this was legal with regards to consumer rights.

One popular economic blogger wrote: “Kindle has now withdrawn [from China]. Many years ago, when different kinds of online storage spaces starting closing down, I learned one thing: never fully trust internet storage services. Your study material, the things you wrote, your video records, you need to back them up. We never know when the online services we use suddenly stop working.”

By Manya Koetse

Image via Weibo

Featured images by Weibo blogger @钟文泽.

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